Friday, November 12, 2010

Jamaican Coconut Pie


A friend at work lent me 'Home Baking' by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duduid, an interesting cookbook with recipes from around the world combined with tidbits about various regions and their cooking.

I decided to make the Jamaican Coconut pie for the following reasons: 1, I wanted to make something from this book to bring to work; 2, I already had some pie crusts frozen; 3, I had coconut in the pantry, which my husband will have nothing to do with; 4, it did not require a large amount of effort for the final product so I could make it on a random Thursday night. So combining all reasons, this was the perfect thing to make.

I thawed my pie crust all day in the fridge and rolled it out when I got home. I placed the 9 inch pie plate in the fridge to rest during dinner. So ignoring the pie crust parts of the recipe, here is the filling and make up of the pie, copied or paraphrased directly from the book,:

Coconut Filling:
1 1/4 cups dried unsweeteneed shredded coconut or sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup boiling water (if using dried coconut)
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I used light)
1/4 cup cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons butter

Directions:
1. If using dried coconut, place 1 cup of it in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let stand for 10-15 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch, then stir in to the coconut mixture. Or mix the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl and stir in 1 cup of the sweetened shredded coconut.
3. Melt the butter in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the coconut-sugar mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionaly to prevent burning or sticking, until the mixture thickens.
4. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup coconut and spread the filling in the pie shell, mounding in the center and then spreading it outward.
5. Preheat the oven to 375F with the rack on the upper third of the oven. Bake the pie until lightly touched with brown, about 35 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to firm up and serve warm or at room temperature.

My impressions:
I mixed the coconut, cornstarch and sugar together and added to the melted butter. I didn't think it was right to not add any water, but I started off following the recipe. A few minutes in, I give in and follow my gut...I added about 1/2 cup water. I just couldn't see how the mixture would thicken without it. Cornstarch needs water to act and I was afraid that the sugar would caramelize or even worse, burn. Once I added the water, the mixture boiled easily and finally started to thicken.

Since I am impatient, I placed the pot in the fridge to cool faster. That and I didn't want to clean another bowl. I got even more impatient after 15 minutes and put it in the freezer for 10. That did the trick. I pulled out my prepared pie crust and poured the filling in...well, what filling I had any way.

This was another moment where I debated just giving up on the recipe, but since I had gotten so far, I just followed through. The filling only seemed to occupy 1/4 of the pie. This was looking like a very sad pie so far, but into the oven it went.

I kept an eye on it, thinking I may need a pie shield to protect the crust, but it didn't happen. I am very glad I put the pie plate on a baking sheet because some of the filling seeped out through the bottom. One major mess averted!!!

Once the time was up, the pie looked light brown, so I took it out to cook. I was pleasantly surprised that the pie did not look as sad as it did when it went in the oven! Between the crust shrinking some and the filling thickening even more, it looked proportional. I cooled the pie and put it in a container to take to work.

This morning, I brought the pie to work to share. I hadn't thought of tasting it, so I figured I would have a small piece before I let everyone else try it out. Nothing like a little quality control, huh? I was very surprised in how the pie turned out. The crust was nice and flaky, which is something I always worry about. The filling was very sweet, chewy and candy-like. It is not something I would want all the time, but is good on occasion.

I made a few copies of the recipe and put them out by the pie. And by 10AM, all the copies and the pie were gone. I think I can take that as a good sign!

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